Wednesday, May 10, 2006


VIA just about everybody, The New York Times brings us their latest NYT/CBS poll of the President’s performance, with asides on Congress as well as Republicans and Democrats in general:

“Bush's Public Approval at New Low Point”

The entire poll can be read here:

The poll itself offers nothing really new, being merely a continuation of previous trends.  The President’s job approval rating, 31%, continues to slide, but he’s still rated better than Congress, which is viewed favorably by just over one in five…

The President’s personal approval rating, currently 29%, continues to slide as well, although he still fares better than some – John Kerry, for example, is favorably viewed by only 26% of the surveyed group and Dick “Mr. Charisma” Cheney by only 20%...

Democrats in general beat Republicans 55% to 34%.

On today’s hot-button issue, immigration, Mr. Bush’s policies are favored by only 26% of the sample group…

The survey group contains more Democrats than Republicans, and more self-described moderates than either conservatives or liberals – and more Bush voters than Kerry voters. Interestingly, this 46 page work doesn’t contain opinion breakdowns by party.

But the recent Gallup Poll does, and it’s the subject of an interesting treatment by Byron York at National Review online:

“Inside the President's Terrible Poll Numbers”

Mr. York argues that the oft-noted erosion of Republican support is only partly responsible for the situation. He notes that according to Gallup, the President has only 4% support among Democrats – zero, statistically – and 26% among independents. He then goes on to analyze the erosion of “the base,” pinning it largely on immigration, the one issue where more than half – 52% - of Republicans disapprove of his policies.

Over at the New York Post, John Podhoretz looks at the same data and comes to different conclusions:

“Dubya's Dilemma Why Sinking Polls Now?”

Mr. Podhoretz recites the expected laundry list: Americans are nervous about the future, the perceived stalemate in Iraq, and are just plain disgusted with the denizens of the Beltway generally. On the erosion of Republican support, Mr. Podhoretz opines:

“So here's a theory: Republicans and conservatives have grown weary of defending Bush. They've been fighting and fighting and fighting for years, and they see no letup in the hostility toward him or in the energy and determination of his critics. Faced with that implacable opposition, they've grown not disaffected but disheartened. They thought they were on a winning team. Now they're not so sure, and they're feeling let down, the way passionate sports fans do when their guys stumble and fall in the second half of the season.”

Tying it all together is Micky Klaus over at Slate, who links both of the aforementioned pieces:

“Bush's Polls--The Simplified Model. Immigration is killing his ratings. Duh!”

It’s immigration, stupid…

I have to agree.

Mr. Podhoretz notes “Americans are more nervous about the future.” Why? Objectively, most things are going fine. Despite setbacks, most of us are prosperous and the situation is improving. The war is a problem, but for most people it’s an issue in the abstract, more a debate than a life-shaping circumstance. Why the nervousness?

It’s immigration, stupid… Those huge, albeit peaceful demonstrations have opened a door in our awareness that can’t be shut again. The “original Americans” – not the Amerinds but the descendents of the original European settlers – are looking at their children and at the future those children face and they see the time of their decline – a time when they will be the minority. As The Washington Post noted this morning:

“Of U.S. Children Under 5, Nearly Half Are Minorities”

“Nearly half of the nation's children under 5 are racial or ethnic minorities, and the percentage is increasing mainly because the Hispanic population is growing so rapidly…Hispanics are the nation's largest and fastest-growing minority group. They accounted for 49 percent of the country's growth from 2004 to 2005, and the increase in young children is largely a Hispanic story, driving 70 percent of the growth in children younger than 5. Forty-five percent of U.S. children younger than 5 are minorities.”

It’s not an evenly distributed phenomenon, being more pronounced in the west and much less in the old rust belt – as the demonstrations’ turnouts showed.

Nor is it just “white” Americans that are feeling the pinch. As the New York Times reported on May 4th:

“Growing Unease for Some Blacks on Immigration”

Many of the self-appointed black “civil rights leaders” bridle at the comparison between the civil rights movement and the immigration amnesty movement. Some see bias in even the current immigration policies. From The Washington Times:

“Blacks slam immigration bias”

From the article:

“Black leaders say Mexicans and other Hispanic nationals are getting preferential immigration treatment, as the U.S. systematically turns away people from countries with largely African-descended populations, such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.”

Others have more practical concerns. Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote in Pacific News Service:

“Why So Many Blacks Fear Immigration”

There is a growing perception in the black community that the new Hispanic immigrants – legal or otherwise – are pushing blacks to the back of the national bus, taking jobs from lesser-skilled young black men who are still no less qualified than immigrants. It’s led to violence in parts of California…

And weaving it all together is a new awareness of just how dependent the US economy has become on immigrant labor, legal or not. Daniel Gross of Slate commented on a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report on the subject:

“The Immigrant Economy”

For the whole report, “"Foreign-Born Workers: Labor Force Characteristics in 2005:”

Like it or not, the immigrant contribution is huge and vital – and the numbers alone make draconian remedies impossible. As the President recently noted, much to the chagrin of his supporters: “Massive deportation of the people here is not going to work... It's just not going to work.”

Looking ahead through my badly cracked, clouded crystal ball, I see immigration becoming the vital issue for at least the next two election cycles if not far longer. For 50 years this has been much like a chronic National illness, a diseased organ needing treatment. It’s been mostly ignored, as the chronic so often is, but the continued growth of the illegal immigrant population, coupled with the recent demonstrations, has pushed the “illness” to the forefront of public consciousness. The issue “we” have ignored for too long can be ignored no longer.

Some want to treat the organ, to restore it to health. Others believe it’s a tumor that must be removed...

In any case, it’s sure to be the greatest catalyst of change this Nation has faced since 1860 – and it has landed like a bomb in GWB’s lap.

And it’s an ultimate irony: Illegal immigrants, the shadow “citizens” of our Nation who cannot legally vote have, by merely existing, come to wield more power than all the legal voters combined. We the voters may make the final choice, but it will be they who define the options and put the choices in front of us.

Let’s hope there are some good choices after all.

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